Note: I haven't fic-ed in a while, but I thought I would try to help fill the Emily fic void. Something to help tie us all over til June. Lauren's Only Skin is amazing! (not sure this will even compare) and made me think I wanted to write some Emily Paige too. That being said, I am all about Emily/Paige, soooo be warned.
I don't usually write one-shot things like this, but I'm just testing the waters. But if people like this, maybe I'll write some more. Something with a longer storyline.
We Need Lies To Make It Through The Day
Emily has always known she is good at lying.
She is the best of them, only runner-up to Alison (but she's used to that).
She's hard to read, even when she tells the truth. Years of being the quiet one, of observing, of seeing how your emotions could be twisted and thrown back at you taught her how to tuck them safely inside herself. That it was the safest bet.
Alison was the only one who could ever pull her secrets out, shake her up, make her feel exposed. She almost made a sport of it.
Ali, 1. Emily, 0.
At some point, Emily finally stopped keeping score.
But now that Alison is gone, lies are her safe haven again.
She lies about why she's up all night awake in bed.
She says it's all about Ali. About how she died.
And it is.
But it's also about how Emily thought that maybe all these twisting feelings inside her would have died with her.
But she was wrong.
There's this thing that happens when Emily tells a big lie. Her skin grows warm. Her heart starts pounding in her chest. She feels nauseous. She wonders how no one else sees it happening.
Most days, Emily regrets having told Maya the truth about Alison. She had meant to just assure her that this wasn't a one-time thing. That she wouldn't wake up next week and want Toby or Ben or any other boy. That Maya wasn't the first girl she'd ever wanted as more than a friend.
But as soon as the name slipped from her lips, it became an avalanche of words, burying her. She hadn't been able to stop where the story led.
Emily told her everything. About how she had felt. How she had wanted Ali. About how she'd tried and tried and tried to be what Ali wanted and failed every single time. About every twisted, sordid thing Ali did to taunt her.
And how despite it all, that maybe Emily had loved her…
Today, like most days, Emily is curled up in Maya's arms on the bed, the other girl's fingers gently threading through her hair. It's comforting and painful all at once. Because it is something Ali used to do. Touch her hair and tell her it was beautiful. And sometimes, every once in a while, Ali would tell Emily she was beautiful.
Emily can't tell the truth.
She can't say that it still hurts.
She can't say that she still hears Alison's voice when everything is quiet at night, that she still remembers the feel of jungle red lips on her own plain chapped ones, and that she still wonders what happened that night she drank too much and woke up next to blonde waves in Ali's bed, both stripped to their bra and underwear.
She can't tell Maya that a part of her is still holding on to Ali… that a part of her might always…
Not when Maya has just whispered three simple words to her…
About love. About loving Emily.
Lying in Maya's arms, Emily can't still her racing heart. Silently, she wishes it is because of how Maya is making her feel right now.
And not about how Ali used to…
It's too soon… Emily thinks but doesn't say.
Instead, she pushes back tears and whispers.
"I love you too…"
She has gotten so good at this game, she doesn't even know when she's playing anymore.
Emily would be lying if she said she didn't want Paige before that night in the car.
That she hadn't noticed her. In the locker room. Changing. Once… or twice…
Strong shoulders. Curved hips. Pouted lips.
That she hadn't felt ashamed for maybe wanting just another thing she couldn't have.
Another crazy beautiful thing that loved to torture her. It had made her feel like such a masochist.
But she had noticed her. She had imagined her. She had thought of those lips on hers.
She wasn't sure if it made it more or less surprising then when it actually happened.
That's what Emily had been thinking when Paige had appeared in her unlocked car. Emily hadn't wanted to hear more apologies, more excuses.
There was nothing worse than the object of your affection (even if was a slightly foggy, unclear, half-denied affection) telling you how sorry they were.
And then, in a moment, her senses were full of Paige. Paige's hands in her hair, soft lips on hers, her scent around her.
A shock ran through her like fire. A fire she hadn't felt in a long time. A fire that she thought had died with Alison.
In a moment, Paige was gone.
But for Emily, she was already burning again.
There is nothing about Paige that even remotely resembles Alison. Cropped auburn hair falling in her eyes that looks nothing like perfectly curled blonde waves. Skin that smells a little like chlorine mixed with lavender and nothing like strawberries and Chanel.
Yet everything about the way Paige makes her feel is the same.
It's what Emily is thinking as she kisses Paige on her window seat, feeling slightly guilty for wondering how long Paige will let her kiss her, how much Paige will let her touch her.
It feels so good. She doesn't want to stop.
She knows now that it wasn't the same with Maya. She wasn't able to put a finger on the feeling before. Not until now.
With Maya, adoring Maya, there had been sweetness. There had been simplicity. There had been comfort.
Maya had made her feel safe.
The opposite of Ali. The exact opposite of Paige.
Because the way she feels every time she touches Paige, every time Paige's lips part and let her in…
All she feels is fear.
Because after this week, after the hell of seeing Paige laughing at someone else's jokes, touching someone else's arm, being someone else's girl…
She knows Paige can break her.
The thing about lying, Emily realizes, is that you eventually grow weary of it.
In the back of Emily's car, parked off Interstate 202, their fingers tangle, their mouths tangle, their bodies tangle. And Emily feels as naked on the inside as she is on the outside.
It's far more sweet than bitter, but bitter nonetheless.
Because in the clear light of day, Emily sees her pretending they have never touched. Pretending she hasn't gotten inside of Emily, inside of her heart.
And Emily begins to wonder if Paige even knows how deep.
Emily feels off balance. The way she feels at the start of a race, a second before she dives into the pool, when her body rocks off balance, tilting her center of gravity, and she knows it is about to be her versus the water.
It is the best and the worst kind of feeling. Knowing it is the moment right before you are going to win or lose.
In swimming, Emily is always confident. She always knows she is going to win.
With Paige, Emily is never sure.
Emily knows what it was like to live your life in the dark.
The hiding, the secrets, the shame.
So this is a familiar ache. This is Alison all over again.
And so, despite the wrenching it creates in her chest, Emily tells her goodbye.
And she tells herself, life goes on.
And it does. That is, if she really is still alive.
Without the burning, Emily can't really tell anymore.
It's New Years Eve.
The countdown is running on the television. It's almost a celebration. Hanna's house. A few bottles of booze snuck from Mrs. Marin's stash. Party hats and streamers. Friends.
Emily knows, on the outside, she has everything she has ever wanted. Her mom has finally come around. Her dad is back, and there's no more talk of moving to Texas. Things are good.
But as she watches the crowds of smiling faces gathered around Times Square, there is a lump in her throat she just can't swallow. And there is still a face behind her eyelids every time she closes them.
She thought what she wanted was to be open to the world. To quit hiding. To quit telling lies.
But what she is starting to realize is that the biggest lie is the one she's telling herself.
The one she's still trying to convince herself is true.
It's the one where Paige means as little to her as everyone thinks.
The one where she doesn't ache when she thinks about every time their lips touched.
The one where she doesn't think about her at all.
The one where she never ever thought, not for once, that Paige might have been able to save her. That maybe she still could.
"You okay?" the voice next to her asks.
Emily turns from the television. "Yeah."
"Where'd you go?"
"Nowhere," Emily assures. "I'm right here."
Samara places her hand over Emily's, and their fingers intertwine.
"Almost midnight," the blonde whispers. And Emily thinks how crazy it had been for her to think the color of her hair was almost the same as Ali's. It's not even close.
Emily flashes her a sad smile and is quietly thankful that Samara can't see right through her. The way Ali did. The way Paige still does, when they catch glances in the hallway, in the locker room, those brown eyes tearing her open…
The ball drops on the television. Samara leans in to kiss her, and Emily closes her eyes.
She tells herself that she wants this. She tells herself that she isn't imagining someone else's lips, someone else's skin, someone else's touch…
But Emily is good at lying. And now that Alison's gone, no one can beat her at the game.
Not even herself.